Is this the most historically significant unrestored Land Rover? One of three pre-production examples believed lost will be restored for 70th anniversary

Land Rover is marking its 70th anniversary in 2018 with a series of events and celebrations, including unveiling its all-new 2019 Defender. But arguably the most exciting prospect is its restoration of one of three pre-production Series I models displayed at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show launch – a recent discovery that had previously been presumed lost forever.

Land Rover is working on an all-new Defender:

These prototype examples gave the world its first-ever glimpse of the shape now instantly recognizable as a Land Rover. They remain admired and worshipped by the global 4x4 enthusiast community. Yet for decades, the whereabouts of this launch Land Rover had remained a mystery.

Last recorded on the road during the 1960s, it was assumed to be scrapped or lost. In fact, it had spent two decades languishing in a Welsh field, before the engine seized and it was bought by a new owner as a restoration project. It was then left standing in a garden, unfinished and dilapidated – only a stone’s-throw from the Land Rover factory in Solihull (UK) where the 4x4 was originally built. When its surprise discovery was made, the car was extensively studied and researched, and its ownership history was unravelled to confirm its provenance. It is considered to be the most historically significant unrestored Land Rover ever.

Land Rover restoring Defender prototype

The specialist engineers behind the successful Land Rover Series I Reborn program – which allows customers the opportunity to purchase their own piece of Land Rover history with meticulously restored heritage vehicles – will now embark on their most challenging project yet. The expert team will undertake a year-long mission to enable the vehicle can be driven again.

Tim Hannig, Jaguar Land Rover Classic director, said: "This Land Rover is an irreplaceable piece of world automotive history, and is as historically important as 'Huey', the first pre-production Land Rover." 

"Beginning its sympathetic restoration here at Classic Works, where we can ensure it’s put back together precisely as it’s meant to be, is a fitting way to start Land Rover’s 70th anniversary year."

He continued: "There is something charming about the fact that exactly 70 years ago this vehicle would have been undergoing its final adjustments before being prepared for the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show launch – where the world first saw the shape that’s now immediately recognized as a Land Rover."

The Jaguar Land Rover Classic team will follow a strict and dedicated process to resurrect such a special vehicle, which features a number of unique additions only ever seen on the 1948 pre-production examples. These include a galvanized chassis, removable rear tub and thicker Birmabright alloy body panel, all of which are attributes that mainstream production examples never received. Enthusiasts will be delighted to discover that the patina of the components will be preserved, including the Light Green paint applied 70 years ago.

Previous owners of the pre-production "missing" Land Rover will be invited to the Classic Works facility to witness its sympathetic restoration and share their experiences of ownership. The Series I’s renovation is only one of a series of landmark projects to celebrate the past, present and future of Land Rover throughout 2018. Follow the updates on the earliest beginnings of the legendary brand’s story on Instagram @LandRover.

TIMELINE: 1948 LAUNCH LAND ROVER

  • 1948: Built with LHD and listed as Experimental on the logbook and record of sale
  • 1948: Upgraded with new production parts by Engine Department, converted to current RHD set-up
  • 1955: First registered on June 25, 1955 with registration SNX 910
  • 1961: Sold to a new owner in Handsworth
  • 1965: Moved to Sutton Coldfield (UK)
  • 1967: Moved to Stratford-Upon-Avon (UK)
  • 1968: Moved to Alvechurch, Worcestershire (UK)
  • 1968: Used in Wales as a static power source
  • 1988: Engine seized – the Land Rover was sold to a new owner in Birmingham
  • 2016: Spotted in a garden, destined for a restoration that never began
Source: AutoClassics

Land Rover restoring Defender prototype